In a music world filled with young, braggadocious rappers pushing many of the same beats time and time again, it is rare to find a creative duo as young as Ravyn Lenae and Steve Lacy. Nevertheless, the two 19-year-olds have collaborated and delivered the five-track EP, Crush. On Crush, Lenae and Lacy, on the cusp of adulthood, come together to deliver an unorthodox yet soulful EP filled with a desire to remember past lovers and to feel wanted.
Despite being young, the phenomenal duo have each had their fair share of experiences in the music industry. Lacy, a star from the band The Internet has ingrained his funky, tight beats into the ears of Kendrick Lamar listeners with his production on the inimitable track, “LUST” from Lamar’s DAMN. When he is not busy making beats on his iPhone, Lacy can also be heard accompanying artists such as Tyler, The Creator or Goldink, laying out some passionate vocals on songs like “911/Mr. Lonely” or “Some Girl.”
Lenae has released two EPs prior to Crush. On each she takes similar approaches to some funky instrumentals as she does on her project with Lacy. Her dreamy voice shines on her collaboration with Mick Jenkins, the bouncy, club-like banger “Communicate.” Lenae has also made appearances on albums like blkswn by Smino and Telefone by Noname in which she complements her peers to create passionate lyricism. But each of these seem to pale in comparison to the alliance which is Lenae and Lacy.
Lenae’s voice is versatile as we receive what sounds like an attempt to escape the boundaries of her own vocal capacities. Her shrill singing on the EP single and opening track, “Sticky,” is reminiscent of the way Frank Ocean experiments with high pitched vocals on songs like “Ivy” or “Pretty Sweet” off of Blonde. Nonetheless, this is where Lenae finds power in testing the limitation of her vocal prowess. She gives Erykah Badu-esque vocals as she induces a dreamlike environment for her listeners when singing, “Slipping ‘til you let me drown; Hate me then you love me now.”
Not a single moment does Lacy allow us to forget about his psychedelic guitar. On “Closer (Ode 2 U)” the groovy producer makes his presence known through consistently sexy instrumentation. Toward the back end of the track, the lush bass transcends Lenae into a falsetto over Lacy’s faint voice singing “Baby pull me closer, you should let me love you.” With “Computer Luv,” Lacy proves that he can provide a backdrop for Lenae with not only decorative guitar patterns but also through vocal elements as he accompanies her on the song’s hook.
But really, where the two stand out is with their ability to make use of simplistic instrumentals. This is where Lacy finds success most: in his combination of seemingly effortless but unique guitar chords and synths. Like in his aforementioned standout production on Kendrick Lamar’s “LUST,” Lacy gives a repetitive, unconventional guitar riff on “4 Leaf Clover.” However, this is arguably the standout track of the five-song project. The R&B singers bounce off of one another in synchronization to create a pretty, elegant blend. The duet combines to share their fear of commitment, uncertainty and taking the next step in a relationship.
The way I see it, Crush is a modern take on old school R&B. Each song is perfect for laying back, plugging in your headphones and lighting a candle to embrace the sensuality that Lenae and Lacy provide. It is clear that the young duo rely heavily on their predecessors. In Crush, Lacy and Lenae travel together through lingering compositions, unraveling one another’s potential as musicians. When asked about his opinion on the collaboration, Lacy looked at it as his “Pharrell/Kelis” or “Timbaland/Aaliyah” moment. Although the two have not quite reached such a level, the young virtuosos have created a more than exceptional collection of sensational, romantic ballads.